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Education debates draw both Bush, Clinton

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. (REUTERS/Fred Prouser)
Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. (REUTERS/Fred Prouser)

Their presidential plans may be uncertain but one thing is clear: Jeb Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton keep bumping into each other.

Bush and Clinton were taking the podium Monday at a higher education conference in suburban Dallas organized by Bush, the former Florida governor who is the brother and son of Republican presidents. The former secretary of state, whose husband, Bill Clinton, served two terms in the White House, is the leading Democratic contender in 2016 if she runs for president again.

As both Clinton and Bush weigh their options, the conference offers a bipartisan twist for the two dominant American political families of the late 20th century, both of whom could return to the presidential stage next year.

It is at least the third time in the past year that Bush and Clinton were crossing paths.

Both were on hand for the April 2013 Dallas presidential library dedication of former President George W. Bush, Jeb Bush’s older brother. Mrs. Clinton sat on stage with her husband and four other living U.S. presidents attending the ceremony, including the Bush patriarch, former President George H.W. Bush.

In Philadelphia last September, Jeb Bush— in his role as chairman of the National Constitution Center — awarded Hillary Clinton the Liberty Medal, an event which allowed both to offer plenty of presidential-themed banter.

Bush said while he and the former first lady “come from different political parties, and we disagree about a lot of things,” they agreed on the wisdom of the American people, “especially those in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina,” traditionally the first contests in the presidential primaries.

Tongue-in-cheek, Bush asked Clinton not to wear her medal in Des Moines, Iowa, the home base for many aspiring presidents competing in the state’s caucuses.

Mrs. Clinton reminded the audience that both her husband and George H.W. Bush had received the medal in 2006; she and Jeb Bush were “keeping up a family tradition.” Clinton told the Philadelphia audience that her husband had recently returned from one of his “annual play dates” in Kennebunkport, Maine, at the Bush family compound.

The two families have produced three presidents since the 1988 election, a streak broken by President Barack Obama’s election in 2008.

Rivals in 1992, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush have developed a bond during their post-presidency; they’ve become so close that former first lady Barbara Bush said in a 2012 interview that her sons call Bill Clinton their “brother by another mother.”

At the Globalization of Higher Education conference, which Bush organized with former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt of North Carolina, Clinton and Bush will join education experts in discussing ways to improve access and affordability for prospective college students and to help young people acquire job skills.

During a speech Saturday at the Clinton Global Initiative University in Arizona, Mrs. Clinton noted that 6 million young people age 16 to 24 are neither employed nor in school. She cited the need for a higher education system that would promote those pursuing college degrees and vocational training alike.

“There are a lot of important jobs to be done that may not require a college degree but require a respect for the dignity of the work that is being done,” she said.

Bush has been a leading advocate for education reform since serving as governor. He overhauled his state’s educational system, tying teacher raises to student performance and boosting educational standards.

Bush has been a vocal supporter of Common Core standards, which specify what math and reading skills students should achieve in each grade. Some conservatives have criticized the standards as a federal intrusion into local classrooms.


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